Raya and the Last Dragon is set in the world of Kumandra, which is comprised of five distinct lands inspired by locations within Southeast Asia.
Warning: SPOILERS ahead for Raya and the Last Dragon!
Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon introduces the beautiful fictional world of Kumandra. Over the course of the movie, viewers are taken on a journey through the kingdom’s five regions. Inspired by countries within Southeast Asia, the lands of Fang, Heart, Spine, Talon, and Tail each showcase distinct tribes. The eventual sign of unity among Kumandra is made even more significant based on how drastically different the five regions truly are.
Centuries before the events of Raya and the Last Dragon, the tribes of Kumandra lived peacefully alongside mystical dragons. When the dragons sacrificed themselves to save humanity against an evil force known as the Druun, all that was left was an orb. This object, the Dragon Gem, not only kept the Druun from ravishing the kingdom, but it also served as a reminder of the past. When the five regions fight over the Dragon Gem, the Druun are reawakened, and the peace within Kumandra disappears. A brave warrior named Raya (Kelly Marie Tran) takes it upon herself to find the last surviving dragon, Sisu (Awkwafina), to collect the Dragon Gem pieces in the hopes of bringing Kumandra back together.
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Ahead of the life-altering mission to save Kumandra, Raya and the Last Dragon reveals a visual overview of the kingdom alongside Namaari’s (Gemma Chan) Dragon Scroll. The five lands are placed along a giant river that resembles a dragon, appropriately named Dragon River. Based on the locations along the river shaped like the magical beasts, the tribes took on names to represent the parts of a traditional dragon. Here’s a breakdown of each tribes’ unique qualities and some of the inspiration behind their designs.
Raya resides in Heart, which is arguably Kumandra’s most important location seeing as it houses the ancient Dragon Gem. Her father, Benja (Daniel Dae Kim), is the Chief of Heart and a sworn guardian of the powerful orb kept hidden in the land. The tribe tends to wear blue and green colors to symbolize the importance of water. Coincidentally, Raya is forced to search for Sisu, the legendary water dragon, when the tribes break the Dragon Gem and awaken the Druun monsters. Though Chief Benja turns to stone, he urges Raya to take a piece of the gem. Upon locating Sisu, the pair set out to repair the magic orb to bring back the Druun’s victims, including Sisu’s dragon siblings. Raya later reveals the first defeat of the Druun at the hands of Sisu and the other dragons occurred in Heart centuries before.
North of Heart on the kingdom of Kumandra’s map is Fang, the most dangerous enemies in the eyes of Raya. Fang is the home of Namaari and her mother, Chieftess Virana (Sandra Oh). Known for being fierce assassins and having an affinity for cats, Fang used the effects of the Druuns’ return for their own prosperity. According to visual anthropologist Steve Arounsack (via THR), who worked on a team of consultants for Raya and the Last Dragon, Fang is inspired by Cambodia’s Angkor Wat. With a skilled army, Fang is meant to have a militaristic feel. The structures are vast and advanced compared to the other regions. They also have a canal, which helps lessen the threat of Druun because of the water supply. Rather than focusing on the fate of Kumandra as a whole, Fang makes decisions based on the specific tribe’s future. However, that changes when Namaari joins Raya’s mission.
Those traveling east from Fang and Heart will eventually arrive in Spine, the snow-covered bamboo forest guarded by giant warriors. The Spine clan often wears muted clothes that feature multiple layers due to the cold climate. Production designer Paul Felix, who worked with Arounsack, shared Spine’s environment is linked to the ample amount of bamboo in Vietnam. When Raya and her group travel to Spine, they encounter Tong (Benedict Wong), the last surviving member of the tribe. The entire community and village are fortified with bamboo to protect from enemies. Though the tribe is prepared for conflict, Tong quickly volunteers to help Raya and Sisu if it means he could reunite with his family one day.
Raya describes the land of Talon as a floating market, and the village is exactly that when she arrives in the region in the hopes of attaining Chief Dang Hai’s gem piece. The citizens of Talon wear purple and are known for having fast hands. To emulate different kinds of markets from Laos, Thailand, or Indonesia, Arounsack revealed the importance of nailing down Talon’s vibrant energy. He mentioned “a lot of movement, lights, people, kids, older people, food, smells, everything” when describing the elements at the focus of the specific land. Since much of the tribe remains on the water, Talon has a natural defense system from the Druun, who stay away from water. Little Noi (Thalia Tran) and the Ongis are among the most notable residents of Talon as their con artistry comes in handy during Raya’s mission.
Tail resides at the very end of Kumandra’s Dragon River, but it actually serves as the first stop in the adventurous journey at the center of Raya and the Last Dragon. The princess of Heart describes Tail as a sweltering desert full of deadly mercenaries. By the time Raya gets there, most of the tribe is all but gone, having turned to stone or fled elsewhere. This was intentional, seeing as the movie’s consultants wanted Tail to consists of “pockets of villages.” The rustic aesthetic was notably based on the Mekong River that runs through regions of Southeast Asia. Using the Dragon Scroll as a guide, Raya finds the river’s end, where Sisu is said to be hiding. After begging for help, Sisu reveals herself before agreeing to help Raya on her journey. The pair head deeper into the caverns until they find the remains of Tail’s leader holding onto the gem piece. Aside from escaping booby traps and a chase from Namaari, Raya and Namaari make it to the river with the help of Tuk Tuk (Alan Tudyk). Instead of going to shore and traveling through the desert, Raya hires the captain of the “Shrimporium,” Boun (Izaac Wang), for a ride to the next destination.
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